Labor and social barter in an Appalachian community: Carroll County, Virginia, 1880s-1930s

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Virginia Tech

From the 1880s to the 1930s Carroll County, Virginia, experienced economic changes which were sweeping many areas of the Appalachian mountains. Industrialization brought Sawmills and iron ore mining activity. Throughout this fifty-year period, Carroll County residents continued to labor at agricultural activity. Laborers began to work in the new industries while continuing to farm.

Throughout this period, laborers moved from place to place seeking economic opportunities on farms and in industry. Carroll County residents practiced a diversity of labor to support their families. Carroll County residents also helped each other through the practice of mutual aid. When crops needed harvesting, neighboring farmers pitched in to help. Younger residents took care of and housed their elderly kin. These practices of mutual aid did not cease to exist with the arrival of industrialization. Sometimes, new labor opportunities provided people with new ways to interact with and help family and community.

Preston Webb exemplifies the fact of Appalachian migration, mobility, work diversity, and mutual aid. He moved about the Carroll County region for work opportunities. He worked at a variety of agricultural and non-agricultural jobs to support his family. He also housed family members during times of crisis. Other Carroll County residents were at different levels socially and economically, but they too operated from a world of mutual help, work diversity, and mobility. This thesis explores these phenomenon through the stories of these residents of Carroll County.